When most dynasty community members laud this 2023 tight end class, they usually do so with Michael Mayer or Dalton Kincaid in mind. Even the likes of Darnell Washington, Luke Musgrave, and Sam LaPorta have dynasty managers excited to select them in upcoming rookie drafts. Kraft, however, often becomes the forgotten man, but make no mistake, he is someone that all dynasty managers need to have on their radars.
The degree to which we should get excited about Kraft in our actual rookie drafts will largely depend on where he lands. If a team like the Packers or Chargers made Kraft their primary option at the position by virtue of draft capital, the former Jackrabbit’s dynasty value would skyrocket. It remains to be seen whether or not Kraft can follow in the footsteps of fellow Jackrabbit Dallas Goedert and make a similar hop to stardom in the NFL, but Kraft has the athletic profile to get it done. Let’s take a closer look.
College: South Dakota State
Age: 22 (10/03/00)
Draft Projection: Top 100 pick
Kraft was a standout running back (among other positions) for South Dakota’s Timber Lake High School. He rushed for over 1,400 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior. Despite his Holy Grail production for Timber Lake, Kraft’s college prospects were virtually Dead and Gone. Recruiting services overlooked Kraft despite how in sync he and the entire Panthers’ offense appeared during his career.
Kraft stayed home and enrolled at South Dakota State without many major college offers. Early on, he garnered some hype in the devy community with a 65/780/6 receiving line as a sophomore. He was named an FCS All-American and All-Missouri Valley Football Conference for his 2021 season.
Unfortunately, Kraft got hurt in 2022. He played roughly half the season and caught 27 passes for 348 yards and three scores. His best performance of 2022 was during the FCS semifinals against Montana State. Kraft went for 74 yards and a touchdown to send the Jackrabbits to the FCS Championship.
Ideal Athletic Profile
At 6’5″ and 254 pounds, Kraft looks the part of an NFL tight end. He has the thickness to his frame to hold up in the run game and absorb tacklers after the catch. Kraft also has the quickness to adjust to wayward throws and can wiggle a little bit for a man of his size.
His play strength is also impressive. He can impose his will a little bit at the catch point. Kraft is also very good at adjusting his body in the air to make plays on the ball. His hand-eye coordination as it pertains to winning those 50/50 balls is impressive. This should all translate to being an asset in the red zone at the next level.
After the Catch Ability
Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with Kraft’s athletic gifts, but he is excellent after the catch, especially for someone of his size. In fact, at this stage of his development, this might be Kraft’s best skill on tape. It remains to be seen if his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands will translate to the NFL, but Kraft is a hard player to bring to the ground, especially once he gets the momentum going.
Tucker Kraft é um nome bem interessante para os times que precisam de TE.— The Pick Is In (@ThePickIsInBR) March 31, 2023
Por mais que tenha jogada na FCS, Tucker dominou. Mostrou que consegue ser uma arma vertical, entrega YAC tanto na força como de maneira elusiva e é físico nos seus bloqueios.pic.twitter.com/VAriiK1wEO
Again, Kraft can play several roles within an offense partly due to his athletic talents. He is strong and sturdy enough to line up in line. From there, he can fight through traffic, get up the seam, and hold his own as a blocker.
Kraft is athletic enough to also move around the formation and not be locked into a situation where he is simply a Y-TE. This will be especially valuable to teams with systems that rely more on 12-personnel.
While we in the dynasty/devy community pay a lot of attention to measurables when ranking our tight end prospects, running crisp routes is still vital if you hope to be a difference-making player at the position at the next level. Kraft is a work in progress in this area. On film, there are a lot of examples of a lack of sharpness in his routes and breaks.
In addition to sometimes rounding off his routes, Kraft needs to get off the line a little quicker. The speed is there, but it takes a little bit to get going sometimes, or so it looks on film. This is especially evident on more complicated or slow-developing routes than simply sprinting up the seam. Kraft’s change of direction skills aren’t bad for someone who is over 250 pounds, but in real-time, he sometimes struggles to get into his route quickly enough.
Level of Competition
This isn’t so much a weakness as it remains a question. South Dakota State plays in the Missouri Valley Conference against the likes of Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, and seemingly every other school with a direction in their name. On most days, Kraft is the biggest size-speed athlete on the field. That will not be the case in the NFL.
In addition to the levels of athletes Kraft faced, the Jackrabbits system also seemed to help him a lot. He was thrown a lot of quick screens and short passes aimed to get the ball in his hands. The Jackrabbits’ passing game outside of that was heavily reliant on play-action, and some are questioning whether his impressive stats in 2021 were legitimate.
The Wrap Up
While Kraft is not a perfect prospect, his athletic profile suggests that he has the potential to be drafted somewhat early in the 2023 NFL Draft. He will almost certainly be selected in the first four rounds of the draft, meaning there is a good chance his new team will pick him with the idea that he will one day be expected to be a major contributor.
The fact that he can block doesn’t matter for fantasy except suggesting that he might see the field earlier and more often due to his willingness to be a blocker. Kraft still has a ways to go in the run game, but he isn’t exclusively a pass-catcher at the next levels.
Cade Otten from last year’s class comes to mind when I watch Kraft. It isn’t so much that their exact skill sets are the same. I’m talking more about the prospect caliber when I mention Otten’s name. I am confident both are good enough players to be in the conversation.
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